How Hockey Players Can Gain Weight (Muscle)

Weight regulation for hockey players can be a tough road to success. Between in the gym training, on the ice work and dry land training movements, it can be tough to get all your meals in and eat enough to gain weight with all that activity. I just recently had to give one of my high level hockey players three different meal plans to alternate through throughout the week due to his intense training regime. Here are the three things that have to be present in order to gain muscle mass:

1. Hypercaloric diet
2. Proper building blocks for lean muscle tissue from diet
3. Proper training stimulus and loading parameters

Those three rules are like a tri-pod, if one of them are knocked out it’s all going to crash. They function in their own important way that is discussed throughout entire textbooks on the topics. If those three are in check, there’s nothing stopping you. During the Off-season is where hockey players are generally looking to maximize weight gain and with the small amount of time you have to focus on this, you need to pull out all the tricks you have. Off-season training is generally only 16-20 weeks in length and there is only so much that can be accomplished, ensuring everything you do is done correctly maximizes the potential of this time frame.

1. Hypercaloric Diet

Without a hypercaloric diet you can’t gain weight, period. If you’re stuck at the same weight for months on end you’re eating at maintenance, which is the amount of food required to keep you at your current weight while supporting your current activity. You need to be able to eat more than enough to support your current weight and activity in order to gain weight. This can be super uncomfortable at times, yes, but is absolutely necessary. If you’re not gaining weight, you’re only eating enough to support your current weight, you need to exceed that to gain weight. There’s no way around it. Bodyweight is regulated almost entirely by caloric intake.

A good estimate to create your hypercaloric requirements are your bodyweight x 18 to 20. For example, if you’re 160lbs and want to gain weight:

160 x 18 = 2880 calories per day would be a good starting point.

2. Proper Building Blocks

hockey nutritionCalories bring about total body weight regulation, but calories aren’t tissue specific (tissue specific being muscle mass vs fat mass). Becoming tissue specific means controlling the amount of macro-nutrients (protein/carbs/fat) that are making up your current calorie allotment. For example, getting 100% of your calories in from carbohydrates is going to yield a different physique then having a more balanced intake. Ensuring you are getting in the proper macro-nutrient breakdown for your desired goals and activity is vital to ensuring your gains are quality gains.

A typical macro-nutrient breakdown looks like this:

Protein (4 calories per gram): 0.8 – 1.2g per pound of body weight per day.

Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram): 0.0 – 4g per pound of body weight per day. Carbohydrates have a very, very large range of intake because they are based strictly off your current activity levels. But for weight gain, generally 2g per pound of bodyweight on training days is a good start point and 0.5-1g per pound of body weight on non-training days is ideal.

Fats (9 calories per gram): Fats simply make up the rest of your calorie allotment. Take the above example of the 160lbs athlete looking to gain weight, his calorie allotment was 2880 calories per day.

Factor in protein intake: 1g per pound of body weight, he’s 160lbs, so 160g per day = 640 calories
Factor in carb intake on a training day: 2g per pound of body weight, so 320g per day = 1280 calories

Total calories allowed = 2880 – 640 (protein) – 1280 (carbs) = 960 calories left, which equates to 106g of fat per day.

Tying it all together for his average training day intake:

Total calories: 2880
Protein: 160
Carbohydrates: 320g
Fat: 106g

Keep in mind all these calorie estimates and macronutrient breakdowns are just that, estimates. I can’t be 100% sure what is optimal for you unless I know you and you’re current situation. Unless we are working together 1-on-1 it is up to you to gauge these requirements, assess your body weight overtime and adjust accordingly.

3. Proper Training Stimulus and Loading Parameters:

Training program design and proper workouts are what is going to stimulate muscle growth in an otherwise already fit person. For an underweight individual or unhealthy individual, somebody can gain lean muscle mass just simply with a change in macro-nutrients and calorie intake. Although these are normally the guys LARP’ing on the weekends and playing Dungeons and Dragons on Friday nights.

But the healthy training population who has already attained a healthy body weight / lean muscle mass and is looking for more lean muscle mass to improve their game; NEEDS to train properly. This normally represents hockey players looking to add some mass in the off-season.

You don’t grow in the gym, training simply creates the stimulus for growth, while eating and sleeping provide the proper environment for the real growth to actually happen. If you don’t have a proper periodized hockey training program creating a controlled overload over a period of time you could definitely be spinning your tires in the mud. Program design is of the utmost importance to your success and if you’re winging it or playing ping pong with a bunch of different random programs online you will plateau, fast.

General Tips and Notes on Gaining Weight

Eating 4-8 times per day is ideal. Neither 4 nor 8 is better than the other so long as you get your calories and macros in. Having a meal plan is a guaranteed approach to success in weight gain but if you’re not on a meal plan for whatever reason eating calorie dense foods is to your advantage as they add more bang for your buck in weight gain per meal. A good example of calorie dense foods are a bag of raw nuts and mixed dried fruit to snack on between meals. Or choosing steaks and chicken thighs over leaner meats such as chicken breast and tuna. More fat = more calories.

If appetite is a problem, alternating between liquid and solid meals may be to your advantage, but relying too much on liquid meals is a defeating technique. You need to eat solid food to be solid. One of your liquid meals should come in the form of a shake post-workout with a moderate amount of protein mixed with a very high amount of carbohydrates due to the post-workout window being nearly bullet-proof in preventing any fat gain.

Last but not least, if appetite is still an issue even after alternating between liquid and solid meals, adding in a B-Complex vitamin is to your advantage. Deficiencies in B-Vitamins have been linked to low appetite so taking in a well formed multi-vitamin with a good amount (and good forms) of B-vitamins throughout the day can help with that.

About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at HockeyTraining.com. He holds 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a formal education in both functional medicine and health science. Dan specializes in hockey performance, having worked with hundreds of athletes from the youth leagues, right up to juniors, AHL, KHL, and NHL.

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  • This was very helpful, with really specific directed suggestions/advice. Reassured much of the other stuff I had figured. THanks alot!